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LAST-DITCH EFFORT

Cougars race past Sonora with closing 15-0 run

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LAST-DITCH EFFORT

Weston Ranch center Daiveon Leverett flushes down a dunk in transition against visiting Sonora Tuesday.

JONAMAR JACINTO/


POSTED February 8, 2012 12:57 a.m.

WESTON RANCH — After going scoreless the first four minutes of the fourth quarter, Weston Ranch looked to be on its way to assisting Sierra High into a share of the Valley Oak League championship. A smothering full-court press to close the quarter would hold Sonora scoreless and pull the Cougars to a 54-47 win Tuesday.

Weston Ranch trailed 47-39 midway through the final period behind laser-sharp perimeter shooting from beyond the arc. After a 27-27 deadlock at halftime, Sonora came out sizzling, connecting on six consecutive 3-pointers to all but end the Cougars’ hopes for a season sweep.

Like the Cougars did in their home win over Lathrop as well as their home win over East Union, Weston Ranch turned to its full-court pressure. The pressure proved to be the difference, shutting down the Wildcats’ perimeter success as well as its scoring all together.

“We pressed a little bit in the first half and they did a good job breaking it,” Cougars head coach Ryan Bono said. “We went to the zone in the second quarter to get back in the game and then in the third they hit six 3s, so they forced our hand.

“We had to get the tempo going so we had to press and I told them, ‘Hey, you guys have to go.”

The Cougars (9-2, 18-6 overall) did just that, forcing Sonora into back-to-back turnovers and cutting an eight-point deficit to three behind senior Andre Beard’s three point play. Another Beard steal and assist to Dylan Alexander would trim the lead to one, before Alexander put the squad up for good 48-47 with a steal and dunk with 1:19 to play.

“We did not handle the pressure as well as I thought we would,” Sonora head coach Rick Francis said. “We were working on it quite a bit, but the ball went to a few different places and you can’t do that against a great, athletic team like Weston Ranch.

“I thought for 29 minutes our kids played their hearts out, but it just got away at the end.”

Alexander led all scorers with 23 points, making his most significant contributions in the game’s most pivotal minutes. Alexander and Beard raced from point-to-point in the press, collecting and forcing turnovers for nearly each possession Sonora (6-5, 13-8) had over the final three minutes. Davieon Leverett was virtually unstoppable in the paint, finishing with 16 points on five dunks and also tossed a beautiful alley-oop to Alexander for a dunk.

“We could see that we had to turn it up a notch,” Weston Ranch’s Beard said. “They were hitting their shots, so we had to ‘D’ up and try to come down on offense and attack the basket.

“The outside game wasn’t working for us so we kept attacking hard and feeding off of our press.”

Sophomore

Sonora 63, Weston Ranch 57

The Cougars battled throughout, but were unable to keep pace with the Wildcats in a VOL loss Tuesday.

Josh Gonzales led the Cougars with a game-high 23 points in the loss.

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